The Winds of Recovery are Blowing Across the Nation By Heather Zichal

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released their 4th Quarter 2009 industry assessment, in which they credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with almost solely turning a potential decline into historic growth in the U.S. wind industry.

According to their press release:

Early last year, before [ARRA], the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses. The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation. Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy.

ARRA included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments. Through these investments, American companies and American workers are involved in unprecedented growth in the generation of renewable energy, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid… all while saving and creating jobs here at home. Some of the direct benefits this report identifies include:

* The nation’s fleet of wind farms grew by 39% last year alone.
* America’s wind power fleet will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road.

This report is good news, and it is consistent with the clean energy jobs numbers recently released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Across the country, communities are beginning to establish the clean energy industries that will power the 21st century global economy. Just last week, President Obama got to see firsthand how clean energy investments are putting people to work during his visit to the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab facilities at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio. LCCC is offering the first associate’s degree credit program in Ohio in the burgeoning field of wind turbine power generation. This program will train students to become installation and maintenance professionals in the wind energy sector. The new associate’s degree program will cover an overview of alternative energy sources, with specialized training in electronics, electronic controls, mechanical systems and more.

During the visit, the President spoke on the undertapped potential for clean energy jobs:

That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass a jobs bill to put more Americans to work building off our Recovery Act; put more Americans back to work rebuilding roads and railways; provide tax breaks to small businesses for hiring people; offer families incentives to make their homes more energy-efficient, saving them money while creating jobs.

That’s why we enacted initiatives that are beginning to give rise to a clean energy economy. That’s part of what’s going on in this community college. If we hadn’t done anything with the Recovery Act, talk to the people who are building wind turbines and solar panels. They would have told you their industry was about to collapse because credit had completely frozen. And now you’re seeing all across Ohio some of the — this state has received more funds than just about anybody in order to build on that clean energy economy — new cutting-edge wind turbines and batteries that are going to be going into energy-efficient cars.

Almost $25 million of our investment went to a plant right here in Elyria that’s helping produce the car batteries of the future. That’s what we’re going to keep on doing for the rest of 2010 and 2011 and 2012, until we’ve got this country working again.

The AWEA assessment shows the solid progress made over the last year, but there is still more to be done to both ensure a long-term market signal for renewables and to ensure the U.S. is the global leader in clean energy technology. To achieve this goal, Congress must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy and provide business with the certainty and predictability they need. The House of Representatives has already passed such legislation and the Senate is working to do the same. The President will continue to make passage of legislation a top priority given its benefits for our economy, our security and the environment.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change